SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Ophthalmology

April 26, 2012 07:00 ET

Ophthalmologists Defend Patient Care on Capitol Hill

Physicians Support Key Policies Critical to Millions of Americans With Eye Disease

WASHINGTON, DC and SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - Apr 26, 2012) - More than 350 ophthalmologists will meet today with members of Congress to raise awareness about current threats to eye care and urge their support for policies that enhance disease prevention and treatment for millions of Americans.

During its annual Congressional Advocacy Day, the American Academy of Ophthalmology will share with legislators that an estimated 50 percent of all Americans will suffer from an eye disease at some point during their lifetime. Left undetected and untreated, diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy can rob people of their vision. Yet, pending Medicare cuts could threaten patients' access to critical, sight-saving eye screenings and treatments.

"The American Academy of Ophthalmology is asking Congress to stabilize Medicare funding to safeguard eye care for millions of older Americans," said David W. Parke II, M.D., CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "As more and more baby-boomers enter Medicare, it is increasingly important that policies are in place to support their eye care needs, including prevention and treatment of age-related eye disease. Ultimately, good public policy has the power to help Eye M.D.s fight blindness."

Academy members will also call for renewed federal investment in research and innovation to advance treatment for eye disease. The Academy will ask for $32 billion for federal fiscal year 2013 funding for the National Institutes of Health, including $730 million for the National Eye Institute. As rates of eye disease grow, innovation is increasingly important to help save vision and manage eye disease. New breakthroughs have the potential to offset costly eye care expenditures in Medicare and Medicaid.

Finally, Academy members will encourage Congress to enact policies to make health care easier for patients to understand. The important roles and responsibilities of various members of the health care team can be confusing, but policies currently under consideration in Congress would mandate that advertising and marketing materials disseminated to patients be clear and transparent. This truth in advertising policy would help clarify the roles of health care providers.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology's Congressional Advocacy Day is an annual event to educate Congress and urge policy support for eye care. This year, the Academy has three key priorities:

  • Protecting patient access to quality eye care and preventing blindness. Stable funding and reimbursement for Medicare -- including eye disease screening and treatment -- is critical to prevent unnecessary vision loss. The Academy played a key role in persuading Congress to stop recent Medicare physician pay cuts that threatened ophthalmologists' ability to provide quality patient eye care.
  • Advancing research for new eye disease treatments. Congress should provide adequate funding for vision research, including $730 million for the National Eye Institute.
  • Alleviating public confusion about health care providers. The Health Care Truth and Transparency Act (H.R. 451) would help patients better understand the different roles and responsibilities of their health care providers.

"Public policy plays a pivotal role in promoting healthy vision for all Americans," said Dr. Parke. "We invite Congress to join with us in stopping unnecessary vision loss in the U.S. and providing the best possible care and treatment to patients with eye disease."

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons -- Eye M.D.s -- with 32,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" -- ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit www.aao.org. The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve their healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trustworthy and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit www.geteyesmart.org or www.ojossanos.org to learn more.

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